Okay, so I have been down at the school all this morning. It was Awards Day for the kids. Haven't been there in forever, really. I'm used to being down there every day or every other day. Well, not now, but then. Last year, the year before that, and the year before that. Wasn't there everyday or every other day last year, but I was there frequently.
So this year, I go up there only to attend parent teacher meetings, or to pick my kids up. It's funny how many observations can be fairly made when you're part of something everyday, and how righteous you are allowed to feel for making these observations. When your not there everyday, well, you simply just become a quiet spectator and wonder a bit about things.
I started going to school everyday with Mike Jr. when we first decided to enroll him into public school, which was when he was in 3rd grade. (Well technically, he was supposed to be in 4th grade, but since he was struggling with so many different concepts because of Autism, we opted for him to do 3rd again in public school.) I just couldn't bare the thought of throwing him to the wolves after having homeschooled him for his first 4 years, especially considering the fact that he was just recently diagnosed as having autism back then.
I was so fucking terrified of what everyone must've thought about me then, following my kid around like a lost little puppy, but I was even MORE terrified of the thought of all the things that might've happened to him that happened to me in public school. So there I was, volunteering everyday.
I wouldn't really LITERALLY call it "volunteering", because I was only mostly there to help Mike. Carmen and David could do okay without me, they could function independantly, but I was really concerned about Mike because of his communication issue. If something went awry at school, how would he ever begin to tell me if he had not the skill to do so? He could barely verbalize his needs to ME, his own mother, what more could be said of complete strangers??
Eventually I had my heart melted away by all the other students with needs, like every mother that usually winds up volunteering, so I helped who I could, but mostly focused on Mike. There were a small handful of kiddos that I helped regularly, and I knew every fucking name of every kid not only in Mike's classroom, but David's and Carmen's as well. I also came to know many of the other students in other classrooms because there is always such a great need for extra support from whomever can be available in the school system.
I began to understand the different styles not only of my own kids, but the learning styles of other parent's children as well. It was invigorating to know that I was a part of these kid's lives everyday, making a difference, in some little way, even if it was teaching them the most basic of neccessities, like Daily Oral Language, or remembering to carry the one to the tens place. I would later reward these kids with learning differences, whom are deemed disabled, with chats about the latest episode of Naruto, or where to go to get all the masks you need in order to gain entry to the last temple of the game in the Zelda's series Majora's Mask. These kids that were/are deemed "disabled" were able to speak a language completely unspeakable to most of society, yet here we were, succeeding in places most people could care less about.
Again, Mike started going to public school in the 3rd grade, so naturally, these kids in Mike's class were considered "the oldest" ones to me in the school, because I had no prior experience with the other grades really. 4th, 5th, and 6th grades were a fucking stretch for me. I just couldn't imagine what it would be like for Mike in any of those other grades, so I didn't. I just focused on the "here and now".
But these kids, the older ones....they all seemed so mature for their age, like teenagers already. Hell, most of the sixth graders pretty much were. For me, they were like this unattainable facade of our lifestyle, and I held many of these kiddos at bay for that reason. I'm not going to lie when I say I was intimidated, daunted by these folk. I was just so fascinated at the little things, like how they managed to have come so fucking far in life, WITHOUT their parents there, riding their asses down the hallway, making sure they didn't forget to turn in last night's homework, guiding them in the proper way to respond to other fellow asshole classmates that want to make fun of each other, reminding them to "wipe their face after they eat". There they were, making a place for themselves in this universe. All by themselves. This kept me up at nights. Worrying about Mike Jr. and how in the fuck was he going to survive all this. I could barely survive it as a kid.
But here he is now, in 6th grade, the same grade that I would marvel at 3 years before,all tall and lanky, tromping along with all the other pre-teens, surviving the chaos and madness that is the school system. He's got hair growing from his armpits, has to wear deodorant on a regular basis, knows how to defend himself in a battle of asshole wits, and can efficiently remember to wipe his face after he's done eating in the school cafeteria. There are girls with boobs bigger than mine, and boys that could succeed in getting a date with me if they lied about their age. (kidding of course)
But really, here my kid is, mingling with society, surviving my worst nightmare come true, and I have to sit back a moment to take it all in. It's just fucking too much to bare. I was at his awards assembly this morning watching all these kids that I've been with over the last 3 years all grown up, and I get a taste of what it must be like for teachers day in and day out.
They do what they do not for money, not for fame, not for self recognition. They do it for the kids. And no matter how fucking ridiculous it can be to get up out of bed in the morning and face these kids everyday, enduring the thankless hours of backtalk and sass, not ever knowing for sure whether or not they have what it takes to lead these kids into what is to be their future, well, they just do it. They just get up, and fucking do it. Because they know some day they'll be able to look back at all the times students gave them shit, all the times parents were doubting their methods, and feel some sort of success in knowing that because of them, these kids survived another day.
I almost had to excuse myself to the restroom a few times for fear I was going to lose my composure in front of everyone because of this notion. But I managed to keep a lid on my emotions this time.
There were other times I wasn't able to. Like the first time I heard Mike Jr. during a Christmas rehearsal, singing along with all the other kiddos. He was right up there with everybody else, singing, smiling, wrestling with other kids his age for his spot on the bleachers, and enjoying life. My heart felt like it was going to split asunder as I forced the tears back, but I failed miserably at the attempt. I don't know if anyone ever saw me crying that afternoon, years ago, but I was. I really fucking was.
There was just so much beauty in that moment.
I have a bone to pick with the school system, though. A silent bone, that will probably reach no further than to the end of this blog and the few who choose to read my nonsense. But yes, I do have a bone.
There are so many kids in school. So many, in fact, that MANY, MANY, MANY of their needs get overlooked. This is not news, I know. The system tries to help out as much as possible, and has succeeded in doing so for as much effort as they have put.
But what I am facing here is what one would call a dilemma, I guess.
I am all for kids getting awards, receiving recognition for all the hard work they've been doing all year. They deserve it. They need it. That affirmation will be what gets them going good for the years to come in most cases.
What I am concerned about is all the kids that DON'T get recognition. The ones that aren't really receiving anything at all. I have been on both ends of the stick here, so to speak, and it is both rewarding but also brutally painstaking as I attend these awards ceremonies semester after semester.
I watch as my daughter face beams when she receives an award for getting straight A's for the umpteenth fucking time. And I beam too. I see David's face light up when his name is called for his well earned efforts in making A/B honor roll. And Mike Jr.'s quite happy as he receives outstanding citizenship for all his good choices in behavior.
But if you take the time to look around, you see the faces of the kids that aren't beaming or lighting up.Instead they are hanging their head down in shame. Most of these kids, you might think, deserve it. But they don't. They've been there every fucking day just like everyone else. Most of them aren't equipped with the skills to individually do well on their own, and with the school staff being limited, they can only do so much to help these kids. Many of these kids have been thrown to the wolves, only to be devoured by society's popular ideal of "You get what you put in".
I feel terrible, because that's just not fucking true in life. Maybe some of the time, but not MOST of the time. And definately not in these kid's cases. The same kids I see up there winning awards for being a perfect citizen are the same ones I hear calling my kids names on the playground when they think no one can hear them. They are the same ones telling my kids that I'm a devil worshipper or a slut, just because no one's around to reprimand their ignorance. Yes, most of the kids that don't get awards have these same problems too, they're just not as sneaky and cunning as the ones that didn't get caught.
So all in all, some kids are just getting awards for being sneaky enough. But again, ALL of these kids have been working hard, but not all of them are getting affirmation, because they aren't making the grade. But they are still working hard. Just because someone understands and some others don't they are being ostracized as failures, deemed unworthy of a shake from the hand of the principal, and a piece of paper stating how great you did for understanding.
A fucking dilemma indeed.
All these kids need to know how awesome they are doing, and I think it's GREAT that there are kids getting recognized, but somehow there has gotta be a way to give these other kids hope. Hope that even though you didn't understand how to do the work, you showed up, you tried, and we still think that you're awesome too.
How does one do that? Because in a way it's not going to be fair to all the kids that DO work hard every night for the grade they have, but at the same time, for kids like Mike, he is putting in twice as much effort as the "typical" kid, and not getting A's. And there are so many others like Mike, and it's just heartbraking to see these kids looking around, wondering how come they aren't receiving affirmation that their efforts don't go unnoticed. When you're a kid, getting an award means you did good. Period. As an adult I can say, "Well, I know you worked twice as hard as anybody else Mike, but you just have to keep trying"...but does a child understand that?
No, not really. Especially ones with learning differences. We are just learning that we have to learn the way everybody else is learning and be able to SHOW that to everyone on command in order to get recognition.
I saw a 3rd grader crying today, with his head tucked in between his knees because he didn't receive any awards. Sure, he's got behavior issues, and probably learning differences of some sort, but does that mean we should forget about him and toss him aside like a 3 dollar whore?
I don't think so.
People need to know when their doing the wrong thing. But how do you tell them that they were awesome for trying anyway? Is there an award for that at school yet?